5 talking points from Matchday 16

With the Winterpause in the horizon, the penultimate round of the Hinrunde took2 place in the weekend. Bayer Munich made sure that they finished the year unbeaten in the league with a routine win against Hamburg, with the result opening up a seven-point gap in the standings following Bayer Leverkusen’s surprising defeat against struggling Eintracht Frankfurt. Meanwhile, both third-placed Borussia Dortmund and fourth-placed Borussia Mönchengladbach were held to draws at Hoffenheim and Mainz respectively. Wolfsburg and Schalke made the most of the opportunity to close the gap to them and reach touching distance of the last Champions League berth with home wins against Stuttgart and Freiburg respectively.

Hertha Berlin secured their second win in a row for the first time this season after a deserved three points in a hard-fought clash against Robin Dutt’s depleted Werder Bremen side, as the Green-Whites now level with Hoffenheim in goals conceded, last in the league, despite having scored fifteen goals less than the Sinsheim club. Augsburg guaranteed a top half finish in the first half of the season following their rampant display that outclassed bottom-of-the-table Eintracht Braunschweig. In the craziest match of the weekend, Hannover completed a stunning comeback to deny Nürnberg their first win of the season after going three goals in front at the halftime break, courtesy of a late brace from Mame Biram Diouf. Another point of interest is that no red cards were shown in any of the games.

Herbstmeister!

Even though all that really matters is the coveted trophy at the end of the season, Bayern Munich will go into 2014 with the unofficial title of Herbstmeister, translated as the champions of the first half of the season. The Bavarians had to retain their composure unlike their sloppy display against Manchester City, which almost cost them the top spot finish in their Champions League group, to secure one more league victory before the end of the year.

Despite the 9-2 drubbing in last season’s corresponding fixture and the attack-minded formation on paper, boosted by the return of skipper Rafael van der Vaart, Hamburg didn’t leave much room to operate for the guests with a stubborn defensive display. However, they had to give up the game opener when an exquisite sequence of passes from Toni Kroos and Rafinha allowed Mario Mandžukić to score his tenth goal of the season with a diverting header. Mario Götze doubled the lead after the break and substitute Xherdan Shaqiri sealed the deal with Bayern’s third after Pierre-Michel Lasogga pulled one back for the visitors. After the match, the treble winners travelled to Morocco as they hope to add the FIFA Club World Cup trophy to their cabinet. They will kick-off their campaign against Marcello Lippi’s Guangzhou Evergrande FC from China to book their place in Saturday’s final against either Raja Casablanca from Morocco or Atlético Mineiro from Brazil, the current Copa Libertadores champions.

Four-star Augsburg

Since their promotion to the Bundesliga two and a half , Augsburg had never scored more than three goals in a single match… until Saturday’s sensational victory against Eintracht Braunschweig. The Bavarians’ victory means that even in the event of a defeat at Eintracht Frankfurt next week, they will not drop from the top half of the table. It is a magnificent feat for Markus Weinzierl’s side, taking into consideration that they had been in the relegation zone this time of the year in both of their previous seasons in the Bundesliga.

One of this season’s revelations, Andre Hahn, scored two well-taken strikes after skipper Paul Verhaegh opened the scoring from the spot-kick for Augsburg but former Augsburg striker Thorsten Oehrl pulled one back for Braunschweig with his first of the season. That would only be their consolation goal at the end as Halil Altintop had enough time left to put the icing on the cake with a delightful lob that meant that die Fuggerstädter finally scored four goals in a match.  

Nürnberg – Destined to a draw

When Adam Hloušek, Josip Drmić and Per Nilsson scored before the half-time break to hand Nürnberg a three-goal advantage against Hannover, everyone thought that their endless wait for the first win of the season was finally over. However, Senegalese International Mame Biram Diouf had another plan in mind, as his two goals in the final four minutes of the match, including a last-minute scrappy equalizer, completed an unlikely comeback for the Reds.

Having surrendered their lead in the closing moments of the previous match against Mainz, Nürnberg once again fell short and they are now left with a home fixture against Schalke to put an end to their winless run before the winter break. They have shared the spoils on ten occasions this season, which is four more than the second in that department, Hoffenheim (6).

Frankfurt ruined the Leverkusen party     

Nine Bundesliga clubs completed their final home match of 2013, and thanked their fans for their support throughout the year afterwards. Surprisingly enough, Bayer Leverkusen ended up being the only club to endure a home defeat at the weekend, despite all the recent good vibes at the club and the fact that their opponents Eintracht Frankfurt’s last league win dated back to September.

Die Werkself progressed to the knock-out stage of the Champions League three days with a win at Real Sociedad after a decisive victory at Dortmund in the top-of-the-table clash. They had also won all of their home matches this season prior to Eintracht’s visit, with the exception of a combative draw against Bayern in the league (1-1) and a disastrous defeat against Manchester United in Europe (0-5). On the other hand, in spite of topping their respective group in Europa League, Eintracht Frankfurt had gone ten league matches without a win, having lost five of their last six. However, a solitary second-half strike from all-rounder Marco Russ secured a crucial win for Armin Veh’s side to put some distance between distance and the relegation zone.

Bottom of the pile

Eintracht Frankfurt’s unexpected win in the last match of the weekend means that Freiburg, Nürnberg and Eintracht Braunschweig will still be in the relegation zone at least until the league resumes in late January, no matter what the outcome of Matchday 17 is. The current playoff spot holders, Freiburg, suffered their third consecutive league defeat at Schalke, as Jefferson Farfán scored a penalty-kick for the third week running after an own goal by Pavel Krmaš. Nürnberg had to settle for another point at Hannover, despite a dominating first-half whereas Eintracht Braunschweig experienced their twelfth defeat of the season at Augsburg.

Braunschweig have only scored nine goals in sixteen league matches since their long-awaited return to the top flight, which might well be a very short one. Nürnberg are on the brink of ending the Hinrunde without a single win, but they will hope that their experience and recent good performances will come handy at the end of the season. Lastly, now they only have the Bundesliga to concentrate on, Christian Streich’s Freiburg hope that Thursday’s exit from Europa League will be a blessing in disguise.

Header courtesy of facebook.com/FCAugsburg

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Eskender born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Despite the geographical differences, he's interested in every detail of German football, if not any kind of football. Wolfsburg's industrious away win at Hamburg started his Bundesliga obsession back in 2005. You can also follow him on Twitter @eskeBMG

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